Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Entertainment

January 23, 2014

Ghosts in the moonlight on the rails

I’ve always said it ain’t just the freedom that lets a bum enjoy life as much as the mode of transportation he uses.

For years the railroad tracks through our town had been used for nothing but producing rust and growing weeds.

Admittedly, a weed-choked rail bed is an excellent place for hunting rabbits, but more often than not I used the old rails for practicing my tight rope walking ability, using my shotgun as a balancing pole while pretending to be one of the Great Wallendas. Occasionally, a rabbit would scurry away unmolested while I daydreamed about those monstrous machines that plied these routes with their seemingly limitless power.

One day, after years of silence, I heard the faint blast of a melodious horn. Running from the house, I watched as a diesel engine pulling a handful of cars lumbered over the crossing a block south of us. With a rush of excitement I realized that once again I had the means of converting pennies from legal tender into large, thin wafers of copper. I might even lay a dime or two on the tracks. Turning coins into expendable(pun intended) trinkets isn’t recommended for safety’s sake, but it is one of the fond memories I have of the era of the railroads.

Growing up when trains were a major source of transportation and freight hauling, I developed a fondness for them that continues today (since those of you who live along today’s active tracks may not agree, when stoning my house, please use a size that I can use on my driveway). My mother, who seemed intent on working us kids into an early grave, opened a small restaurant along the tracks in our home town and put my sister and I to work bussing tables. Cleaning dirty dishes didn’t anchor my ambitions for a future profession in the food service business, so my sister and I sneaked out often to play around the boxcars parked on sidings. Daily passenger trains would find us standing by the tracks as these thundering behemoths rushed by in a hurricane of noise and wind, trailing sleek passenger cars filled with travelers to such exotic far off places as Cincinnati and Louisville.

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